How Your Exercise Routine May Be Working To Regulate Estrogen In Your Body

We all know that a good exercise routine should be a staple on our list of healthy habits. Exercise provides many benefits to our body and mind, from strength and neurological function to just making everyday life easier, says the CDC — especially when we can fit it into our schedule on a regular basis. Plus, it feels good to get that sweat on, and regardless of the type of physical activity, the rewards are incredibly valuable to our overall well-being.

Yet few people know of the chemical effect exercising can have on our bodies. More specifically, we are talking about our hormones, such as estrogen, which can be affected by physical activity (via Livestrong). It may not be the first thing you think of in the middle of your workout, but increasing research shows us just how important this hormone can be and how exercise helps to balance the chemical. Here we take a deeper dive into what estrogen is, how it works, and how our fitness routine may help regulate this essential compound.

A closer look at estrogen

The estrogens are a group that includes three primary hormones (estrone, estradiol, and estriol) that affect people of all genders, though they're most well-known for their major role in the reproductive health of people assigned female at birth (AFAB). Estrogen is also crucial in supporting our circulatory, skeletal, and nervous systems, regardless of gender (via MedlinePlus).

Gynecologist Sara Gottfried, MD, tells Bustle, "Many women have too much estrogen in their systems to start with. In fact, many women over the age of 35 develop estrogen dominance. Exercise, in this case, helps to reduce excess estrogen, thereby reducing risk of breast cancer." But breast cancer isn't the only risk of high estrogen, notes Healthline: In AFAB people, it can manifest as irregular menstruation, hair loss, and even memory and mental health issues. Individuals assigned male at birth (AMAB) who have high estrogen might notice fertility problems or erectile dysfunction.

With the help of physical activity, however, we are able to balance this important hormone in our bodies in a natural way. If you already have an exercise routine in place, this will be good news to hear. On the other hand, life can get busy and, while there are some important warning signs you may not be moving enough, you may be unaware that you aren't getting enough exercise. So take stock of where you are and try to determine whether you — and your estrogen levels — could benefit from more movement.

How to use exercise to balance estrogen

Does it matter exactly how we include exercise in our routine to best support estrogen? In fact, it does. According to Gottfried, "When we exercise, we tend to think more is better, so we exercise harder, longer, and more intensely. But actually, exercise has a U-shaped association, meaning that moderate amounts are optimal but low or high levels can be harmful" (via Bustle).

So it isn't necessarily about moving at an intense pace and pushing ourselves to burnout, but rather finding an exercise routine that can best support our all-around hormonal health. Per the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans from the Department of Health and Human Services, it's best if we can find a steady balance between 150 and 300 minutes a week of moderately-intense activity (brisk walking, jogging, or bicycling are some examples) for optimal health benefits. This is around the same prescribed range of time that a study in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention showed could enhance estrogen metabolism.

Meanwhile, if you're not sure where to even start when it comes to fitness, it doesn't have to be anything fancy; a few quick and easy at-home workouts may just be what you need to get started. And remember, next time you're getting that sweat on, you are also naturally regulating your estrogen hormone.